India
Vārānasi

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94 travelers at this place:

  • Day47

    Varanasi

    January 20, 2019 in India ⋅ 🌙 14 °C

    Ok. Ok. Maybe an amp that goes to 11 isn't enough and India definitely doesn't need any more cowbell. We've been collecting startling, and awful, and utterly amazing experiences that make India an 11, or off the charts compared to anywhere else on the planet. I'll make an entry on that later, probably on the flight home. In the meantime suffice it to say that Varanasi blows the scale out of the water. India, in its whole depth of history experience is here. Most days it has made me want to hide in the hotel room, except our first hotel room was clearly decorated by men in the 50s and had just grown uglier and tatty with age. No respite there. So out into the streets and ghats we went. Nancy more than me. Remember that she has grown less risk averse in the past several years and I have grown less risk tolerant

    How can one apply a standard measure to a city that is likely the oldest continuously inhabited place on the planet. People have been praying, washing clothes, defecating, building temples, and burning their dead here since before recorded history. Probably over 7000 years. Older than Genesis. It makes me wonder if that is part of what makes a place identifiable as holy, the mere repetition of these common acts over time. Waking each morning to celebrate the coming of the sun and praying each evening to mark its passing. Bathing away one's sins and filth every morning in a body of water. Donning priestly garb and paint to repeat a piece of the story. Are there imprints that are beyond what we are able to directly witness through our senses and our tools? Elements that transcend time? There must be some reason that so many people point to this place and others like it and say, 'this is a holy place.' Either way, it is incredibly impacting. More so than anywhere else I've been in my almost 60 years.
    More photos:
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/F4qSDXKH5XtA5Sgu6

    Pooja Ceremony video:
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/Ro9evhCf78hrMrK76

    After two nights in the dreadful place we switched to a hotel right in the middle of things overlooking the Ganges with the ghats below. Really interesting and old place called the Palace on the Steps. It was worse for wear, but the owners were really trying and the staff was really friendly and attentive. We were given a room in a circular turret with wrap around windows that allowed us to look up and down the ghats from our bedside. There was also a cool light show that took place on the domed ceiling of the room. I could see Nancy's coming and going quite well from that vantage point.

    As in much of India there were scheduling snafus and disappointments during our stay. We requested Ubers only to have them cancel 10 minutes later. Nancy signed up for a photography walking tour on TripAdvisor that never showed. I arranged a car and driver to the 6 year mid Kumbh Mata gathering of some 60 million people. Driver showed up an hour after he said that he would and by the time we'd have arrived, the morning bathing would have been over. No problem. We took Tuk Tuks, Nancy arranged her own photo and boat tours, and there are enough itinerant priests in Varanasi due to its proximity to the Kumbh that it was quite enough.

    I think I've been able to gain some perspective here. Next we're off to Amritsar and the Golden Temple. We'll see if this somewhat new perspective sticks or shifts in a whole new direction.

    Either way, it will be interesting.
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  • Dec18

    Varanasi, Shiva city

    December 18, 2019 in India ⋅ 🌙 15 °C

    Sleeping on the train wasn't that bad. Not much room but somehow I gor enough sleep. After 12 hours and an hour late we arrived to Varanasi. Not to the station tho, we stopped around 500m before station and train didn't move for almost an hour. People started going out of train and walking towards the station. So did we. Why not 😃 Got some tuktuk, where I had to guide the driver with satnav... fun 🤘Meeting Mateja and Matjaž again for breakfast and then going around.
    Varanasi... this is India. This is Shiva's city - the creator, preserver and destroyer. This city has some different energy... It's a 3800 old city, holiest in India, where people come to bury the dead (they burn them near the Ganges river - Mother Ganga), also prople come here to die. You have tons of characters here, from monks to babas and palm readers,... People actually swim and wash in the river, but highly unadvisable for foreigners 🙂
    We walked up from ghat to ghat, got to upper burning ghat, where wealthier burn their deceased. No photos allowed as it is believed this prevents the soul from reaching the other side. This really is.... not hard but... different.
    In the evening we went to see Aarti Ceremony, it's being performed every day for Shiva and Mother Ganga. This... is so powerful I get goosebumps just writing this. Bells, dancing, singing,... I was speechless, without words, emotional,... Just wow.
    Day ended in some Korean restaurant with amazing food and tea 😊 I love Varanasi!
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  • Dec20

    Bollywood, barber, food and markets

    December 20, 2019 in India ⋅ ☁️ 16 °C

    Last full day in Varanasi. Someone said the sooner you get into Indian vibe the sooner you start enjoying it so, like past days, we had another easy day. We did some photoshoots of some doctor's son with Matjaž on a renewed old hotel right near main ghat. This was pretty fun. We all are into making good photos, comparing them, we kinda have this spontaneous competition who makes best photos 😃 But it's so easy in Varanasi, everywhere you look you find something beautiful 😊
    Since there is a good street barber and Matjaž decided to get his beard done I also got mine shaved. So nice! And you get a head massage in the end, this felt soooo good!
    We wanted to go to some temple also but some Indian dude keeps following is all day every day to show us that temple to earn some money from us. So we just took a riksha and drove to the other part to another ghat. But there were some protests going on from Muslims, walking on streets, police and army everywhere, ... Not that it was dangerous or anything but roads were full of people walking so riksha driver had to find way around them... in one moment we were in the middle of the street waiting for protesters to pass by so we could continue our ride. Government turned off the internet so I’m writing this offline 🤨
    We wanted to go to some Italians place with great garlic, onion and mushroom pizzas, and best of all - amazing apple pies, so so good 😋
    I love such easy days... ended up with some photoshootings in some huge abandoned building with temples, getting some beers and finally some pancakes.
    Off to Jaipur tomorrow, fly time! 🛫
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  • Dec19

    Boat Sir, boat?

    December 19, 2019 in India ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    Second day in Varanasi we took it easy... long sleep, breakfast then headed up the river to another gath. It's interesting watching life near the river - kids flying kites, dogs running around, people washing clothes,...
    We got to another burning gath, this one is for poor which means less ceremonial. Me And Mateja watched for quite some time. They put person in water and bring him out, put wood aroun/under him and then light fire. I've never seen a dead person before 🙁 You do see much here, also beggars and people in conditions... just sad. We are lucky we are healthy and living a life we do. I think.
    After an hour or so we went for some good and awesome apple pie, yum!
    Ended up going to hostel with boat to see the city from river. Really quite a sight. We watcher Aarti again, some food and went to bed. Easy day.
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  • Dec21

    Alvida Varanasi, namaste Jaipur

    December 21, 2019 in India ⋅ ☁️ 15 °C

    After three days in one of the most spiritual, crazy, strange, colorful and awesome city I’ve ever been to it was time to say goodbye. One last breakfast, one more scarf, coffee and we got a tuktuk to the airport. At 30kmh it took an hour to get there. Kinda small but busy airport, but whatever it takes 😃
    After 1.5h flight we finally got to Jaipur. Internet was working again.... and we saw there were actually violent protests going on in Varanasi, 20 people killed and all that. Protests are going on because Modi wants to take citizenship to Muslims in India (200 mio of them live here!). We think this might only be a beginning, more protests planned in Jaipur for tomorrow, I wish they go through in peace and that we have no problems.
    Need to go to bed now, tour around Jaipur is planned for tomorrow, can’t wait, this town should be beautiful! Good night.😴
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  • Day9

    Spiritual day of learning

    November 21, 2019 in India ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    Today was an emotional rollercoaster.
    After breakfast and planning our next stop we decided to go and visit a temple.

    On our way we got blessed by a holy man (hence the red on our forehead). Let's hope it comes true. Then as we were nearly at the temple we were warned again by a local to not take pictures of the body burning ceremony we were seemingly also nearing.

    Here in varanasi they believe that they will go to heaven if they are burnt by the river after cleansing it first in the ganges and have their ashes strewn in the river. The bodies burn for 24 hours a day, so they basically have bodies burning here all the time. Only if a someone is bit by a snake or if they die of a fever they don't get burnt, instead they have a rock tied to their legs and are dropped into the river. Only the rope comes untied and so the bodies come back up (hence the body we saw on the first night)

    We got shown around the burning site and told how that morning there had been a fight between locals and Americans because the Americans were filming the ritual. Unlike what it may sound like, these burnings are real ceremonies and the families are in sever pain so obviously they don't want people to be taking pictures. We don't understand why you would want a picture anyway. It was quite intense getting so close to the burning bodies and being close to death but now that it's settled I am happy that we saw it. The most interesting is that next to the burning site there is a large house where people are just waiting to die. For the different castes they have different story's and also different heights of burning the bodies.

    So that was that- I did feel a bit weird after but both of us were "happy" that we did it.

    In the evening we saw a more joyful ceremony which also happens everyday which was the praising and thanking of the river. We took a boat out and had a lovely trip down the river till we got to see the ceremony from the water. It was astounding how many people showed up and that's what you see in the videos too. Super cool, both of us got to do a wish while lighting a candle and think we're both feeling more spiritual now. I thanked the river for giving all this hope and joy to the people here, it is quite astounding.

    To top it off we had a nice meal of noodles and Indian fried rice with a side order of French fries. Interesting choices hahaha.
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  • Day8

    A better place

    November 20, 2019 in India ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    We've been in varanasi for a day now and we like it so much more here! Our first hotel was a bit nerve inducing with no English being spoken and half getting scammed. Also the bathroom there ventilated into ours and the people next door smoked and so our room was filled with smoke.

    None the less after an eight hour car ride we made it to Varanasi! Instantly the hostel staff were so so so so much more friendly and welcoming. Felt right at home.

    In the shared room we met a lovely Irish couple (praise ❤️) who had been traveling the world for 11 months already. They had so many good tips and made us feel so much better about everything, we could ask them for good tips too.

    Then we went to look at the river Ganges (our hostel is right next to it) and saw what we think was a floating dead body. Yum!

    Now we're in a private room because we figured we'd have some luxury. The place has a roof terrace with a lovely view but we now also have a little balcony. Win-win-win.

    Finally got sim cards today so we're more mobile. We really like varanasi because everyone is nice to us here and greets us instead of just staring. Also it's such a spiritual place where they are so respectful of the animals as well as people. Happy!
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  • Day6

    Varanasi - Another World

    February 20, 2019 in India ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    Well, if Mumbai is a city of contrasts then Varanasi is on the moon!

    No famous buildings to speak of, and no nightlife for westerners, it is all about the atmosphere and the incredible spirituality of the Hindus for whom it is the most important place in the world.

    Our introduction to the Varanasi cremation business was on the way in from the airport, where we passed a beaten up minivan with a body tied to the roof, trussed up with coloured cloth like a Christmas present and en route to one of the cremation ghats.

    In the evening of our first day we visited an Aarti Ceremony on the banks of the Ganges, and never was the old saying “getting there is half the fun” more true.

    We were in an auto rickshaw, the traffic too thick and the roads too narrow for a normal van. We were pummelled, deafened and alarmed in turn as we wove our way through narrow, filthy, congested alleyways on the way to the river.

    Then the pummelling auto rickshaw began to look quite attractive when we were forced to walk the last half kilometre or so. More than once we were forced to all hold hands to form a chain to cross roads filled with people intent on our demise. The locals seem to walk through the thickest traffic on the narrowest streets with impunity, but it was a very long walk for we white people.

    And the crowds! After the Aarti Ceremony some twenty thousand were expected to go to the temple, and the queue was already some kilometres long.

    The ceremony itself was colourful and incredibly atmospheric, with seven stages set up on the ghat and large crowds sitting on the ground in front of them and also crammed into boats moored in the river.

    Then of course we had a repeat dose of terrifying, kidney-bruising transport on the way back.

    The next morning we were back down at the river by 7:00 to take in the early morning bathing, and the early morning cremations.

    The ghats of Varanasi are amazingly picturesque, especially in the early morning light, and it was very peaceful as we were rowed some kilometres along the shore.

    We disembarked and walked up through narrow streets, past cows and beggars and dogs, dodging carts loaded with firewood (360 kilos per cremation, we were told) that threatened to run out of control down the hill at any time.

    A lot of this we took in rather slowly, as we spent a lot of time looking at the ground, dodging a plethora of different species and styles of faeces.

    Back on the river, we saw numerous cremations taking place, not with any whaling or carry on, just small groups of people near the fires doing what their custom and religion dictated.

    We were moved by the quiet devotion of the Hindus in relation to the activities on the bank of “Mother Ganga”. It’s every Hindu’s wish to die in Varanasi and be cremated and his ashes scattered in the Ganges, as this frees them from the cycle of death and rebirth (and, I suppose, the risk that in the next life they would come back as a mosquito or something).

    Next stop Delhi.
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  • Day11

    Religion in Indien

    June 19, 2019 in India ⋅ ⛅ 35 °C

    In Indien co-existieren verschiedene Religionen nebeneinander, wobei der Hinduismus mit fast 80% die meisten Anhänger hat und der Islam als größte Minderheiten Religion (ca. 15% der Bevölkerung) einzustufen ist. Durch die britische Prägung ist auch das Christentum vertreten. Es gibt keine Staatsreligion in Indien, allerdings wird Indien auch als Hindustan bezeichnet.
    Offiziell leben Hindus und Muslime harmonisch miteinander, doch in der Vergangenheit gab es immer wieder Konflikte zwischen den beiden Religion. Bei unserer Reise ist mir aufgefallen, dass Muslime oft in speziellen Stadteilen zusammenwohnen, z.B. das Weberviertel in Varanasi wurde nur von Muslimen betrieben, weshalb ich hier nicht von einem "miteinander" sprechen würde.
    Religion ist in Indien fast überall anzutreffen: Tempel, geschmückte Autos, Figuren und Bilder der verschiedenen Hindu-Gottheiten und natürlich der berühmte Punkt auf der Stirn (Tika - nach einer Segnung).
    In Varanasi konnten wir eine Zeremonie zur Ehrung des heiligen Flusses dem Ganges "mother Ganga" beiwohnen. Die Brahmanen singen Mantras und warten auf die Tausenden von Pilgern aus dem ganzen Land, welche sich im Ganges frei von ihren Süden waschen möchten. Dann gibt es eine Zeremonie welche von Glockengeläut und viel Rauch untermalt wird.
    Im unendlichen Feuer Manikar­nika Ghat, einer der Treppen zum Ufer des Ganges, werden täg­lich bis zu 400 Lei­chen öffent­lich ver­brannt. Viele Hindus glauben, dass sie dem Kreislauf der Wiedergeburt nur in der heiligen Stadt Varanasi entkommen.
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  • Day10

    Das Kastensystem

    June 18, 2019 in India ⋅ ⛅ 37 °C

    Das Kastensystem (Rebekka)

    Von Geburt an bis zum Tod bleibt ein Hindu an seine Kaste gebunden. Die Einteilung der Menschen in Gruppen und eine strenge Rangordnung sind die Merkmale des indischen Kastensystems. Nach der indischen Verfassung von 1950 darf zwar kein Inder wegen seiner Kaste diskriminiert werden, die Realität jedoch ist eine andere.
    Doch kann eine Touristin, wie ich, das überhaupt beurteilen? Bestimmt nicht. Dennoch versuche ich meine Eindrücke zu schildern.
    Auffällig ist zumindest eine bestimmte Hierarchie, sowohl nach unten als auch nach oben. Besonders im Flugzeug oder in Restaurants möchten viele der Inder so behandelt werden, als ob sie die einzigen Gäste wären und das lassen sie das Personal auch spüren. Bekommen sie nicht rechtzeitig Nachschub, wird der Ton schon ziemlich rau. Doch auch anders herum werden Manager oder Personen, die mehr Verantwortung haben mit sehr viel Respekt behandelt und ich kann mir nicht vorstellen, dass je ein Inder ein schlechtes Wort über seinen Vorgesetzten verlieren würde.
    Doch wie sieht das mit der Gleichstellung der einzelnen Kasten aus? Tatsache ist, dass hier über 100 Sprachen im Land gesprochen werden, Hindi zwar die Amtssprache ist, aber nicht anerkannt wird und sich somit die einzelnen Personen nur auf Englisch verständigen können. Also ohne Englisch kein Job. In staatlichen Schulen ist Englisch aber nicht immer die erste Sprache, die Kinder lernen, anders sieht das in privaten Schulen aus. Ohne Ausbildung kein Job. Doch nicht jeder kann sich ein Studium leisten. Nur die besten werden mit Stipendien finanziert. Aber was ist mit Personen, die nur Mittelmaß sind?
    Jede Firma will nur die besten der besten, englisch ist Voraussetzung und Bildung auch.
    Also von Gleichstellung ist hier bestimmt nicht die Rede.
    Tatsache ist aber auch, dass mit Meera Kumar eine "Ex-Unberührbare" seit 2009 das Amt der Parlamentspräsidentin inne hat. Der amtierende Staatspräsident Ram Nath Kovind ist nach K.R. Narayanan sogar schon der zweite Dalit, der es bis zum Staatsoberhaupt Indiens gebracht hat. Besonders bei der Partnerwahl ist es aber auch heute noch wichtig, jemanden in der gleichen Kaste zu heiraten. Deutlich wird das durch standardisierte Zeitungsanzeigen.
    Besonders in Großstädten werden die alten Traditionen nicht mehr so ernst genommen und in den nächsten Generationen könnte auch das Kastenwesen immer mehr in den Hintergrund rücken. Ein Spruch am Straßenrand fasst hier viele meiner Gedanken zusammen: Don't give up on your dreams!
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Vārānasi, Varanasi

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